Every good idea has its origins — its inspiration — that thing which brings on a “Eureka!” moment and has the power to set a chain of events into action. This is mine.

My name is Liz Siena and I volunteer at a weekly drop-in centre for refugees in Balham, South London. Last December a woman from Eritrea brought in a home-baked loaf of bread as a gift for us all. It was beautifully made and the pattern of the basket it was leavened in had left its mark on the top crust. She toldn us it was hembasha, a traditional celebration bread from her country of birth, Eritrea. She’d brought it in to show her gratitude for the help she had received and wanted to share it with everyone. It really was delicious: slightly sweet, densely textured, exotically spiced with cardamom and other spices.

I was really touched by this simple gesture from a woman who was herself destitute. And I couldn’t forget the wonderful taste of the exotic, unexpected bread. I thought, “Wouldn’t it be nice to help her put her natural gift for bread-making to work? And wouldn’t it be nice if there were a bakery where refugee women could bake bread, improve their English, gain confidence and develop their employability skills?”

I googled and learned there is a precedent for this sort of venture: the Hot Bread Kitchen in NYC, St John’s Bakery in Toronto and the Bourke St Bakery’s Bread and Butter Project in Sydney. Eureka!

I began researching possible partnerships in London. Partnerships which could help turn a light bulb of an idea into reality. A light bulb whose power could potentially help transform the lives of refugee women who want – and need – to support themselves, their children and contribute to society in their new home, the UK.

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